Nick Clegg: Lib Dem ministers aren’t going to Sochi because of ‘appalling’ anti-gay laws

February 7, 2014
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Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg says Liberal Democrat ministers will shun the Winter Olympics in Sochi due to Russia’s anti-gay legislation.

It suggests for the first time there is a difference between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats on the issue of ministerial involvement in the Winter Olympics.

Princess Anne and Maria Miller, the Culture Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalites, will lead the UK’s delegation and visit athletes in Sochi during the Games.

Helen Grant, the second most senior minister responsible for Sport at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, and a junior Equalities minister, will be flying out to visit Team GB during the Games too.

Mrs Miller and Mrs Grant are both Conservative ministers.

Downing Street announced in December that Prime Minister David Cameron would not be attending the event – only because it was not a British convention to do so.

As a fan of winter sports, Mr Clegg has suggested he would have considered the idea of attending, but Russia’s anti-gay laws weight heavily on his mind.

Mr Clegg told LBC 97.3: “It’s just the most regressive law imaginable, it has a very chilling effect, intimidating effect, on many people in the lesbian, bisexual, gay community in Russia and elsewhere.

“It sends out an appalling signal. I am not in favour of sports boycotts; in fact I am a big fan of winter sports. I will be cheering our athletes as much as anyone else when watching the Sochi Games, now and in the coming days. But, you know, does that mean I am going to go there?

“No, I am not going to go there and I certainly wouldn’t want any Liberal Democrat minister to go there given the strength of feeling in my party and I feel this very strongly as well, that what Russia has done, on that legislation, is just plain wrong.”

Some LGBT rights campaigners have urged a boycott of Sochi in protest at Russian President Vladimir Putin’s introduction of laws banning “homosexual propaganda”.

But others fear it would only lead to greater marginalisation of Russia’s LGBT community and be of detriment to the athletes.

Mr Clegg said: “Well we can make it painfully clear that whilst we are not suggesting that somehow we should end the athletic spectacle that is the Winter Olympics, I am not in favour of athletic boycotts, we can certainly make it clear, as politicians, and as governments. I certainly feel this very strongly, my party does as well, that what the Russian Government does, has done, is wrong and we shouldn’t in any way endorse or directly, or indirectly, give any succour to what they have done.”

Mr Clegg said he hoped Britons attending the Games would feel “emboldened to speak out against a very regressive piece of legislation”.

Told they might get arrested, he replied: “Well Putin has said they are welcome but I hope he means what he says when he said that because the legislation that his government has passed points in exactly the opposite direction, it is totally out of step with the need to provide everybody from whatever sexuality, whatever orientation, the right to freedom of expression and to proper dignity in whatever society, including in Russia.”

On Friday, it was announced four LGBT campaigners had been arrested in St Petersburg.

Speaking to PinkNews last summer, Mr Clegg said: “It is just totally out of order it is unacceptable in this day and age for any athlete to feel in any way intimidated or certainly to be discriminated against because of their sexuality.

“Those days should be long behind us now and for those countries and those governments and regimes who don’t see it that way I think they have to move with the times.”




More: anti-gay laws, David Cameron, deputy prime minister, G20, Lib Dem, liberal democrat, Moscow, Nick Clegg, putin, Russia, sochi olympics, Sochi Winter Olympics, Sochi Winter Olympics 2014, St Petersburg, Stephen Fry, Vladimir Putin, Winter Olympics, Winter Olympics 2014

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